Last month, I had the opportunity to attend my very first Unconference in Las Vegas. While I was still unsure of what to expect, I knew I would see some familiar faces: Anna Norton, Christel Marchand, Karen Graffeo, Christel Oerium and a few others from DiabetesSisters conferences I've previously attended. I also invited my husband to come along with me, as I knew there was a track for people who love us (PLU).
After a five-hour drive from home, we arrived in Las Vegas late Friday afternoon and attended the "meet and mingle" party. And wow! What a spread! Delicious appetizers and open bar! It was a wonderful gathering, allowing new and returning attendees to meet and get to know each other before the start of the conference early Saturday morning. My husband and I met so many lovely people, all who could relate to my day-to-day challenges and the crazy things our BGs do living with T1. I spoke with people who have lived with T1 for over 50 years; some with many complications, and some with no complications. I spoke with people who compete in athletic competitions, and people like me who just like to enjoy exercise and outdoors without allowing diabetes to stop us from doing what we love to do.
Saturday morning came early after a fun night of mingling. A filling breakfast buffet was provided before the conference where we were able to further our relationships and get to know each other in a relaxed, comfortable environment.
After pouring into the conference room and getting comfortable in our seats, the conference began with Christel asking that everyone attending be mindful and considerate of others by refraining from any social media posts during the conference and/or using cell phones during sessions. She also wanted to be clear that the most important thing was that at all times we felt welcomed, valued, respected and included.
As the conference unfolded, we broke into smaller table groups to discuss different topics facilitated by a table leader. My husband was led to a different room for the majority of the day with just the PLU. The facilitators were compassionate and supportive as we expressed our thoughts on the different topics. Some topics were more emotional than others, yet there was not one time at the conference where I didn’t feel welcomed, valued, respected and included. Everyone could relate, that was the real beauty of this weekend.
The conference was a mix of people with T1 and T2 in addition to the PLU. But that didn’t matter. The topics were universal to the emotions both groups experience dealing with this disease.
Saturday evening was another fun party. We had our own ballroom complete with yummy appetizers, champagne, and other interesting treats! It was great to have this time to mingle once again with everyone on a lighter level after the day's conference, and there were even chair massages provided for anyone who needed a little extra help to relax and unwind!
For me, the most emotional part of the conference came on Sunday when as separate groups in different rooms, both the people with diabetes (PWD) and the PLU expressed feelings in love letters. When we all reunited as a large group, the facilitators read the PLU love letters, and the PWD letters to PLU, all anonymous. I knew right away when they read my husband’s words. The ironic thing is that my love letter to him was in perfect sync with his love letter to me without having spoken a single word to each other about it previously. It was pretty amazing, and a real “ah-ha” moment for both of us.
As I look back at the conference, I can honestly say it was one of the most fulfilling of all the diabetes conferences I have attended. I feel like I attended a giant PODS Meetup because as a DiabetesSisters PODS Leader, I hope to provide my group a place where they feel loved and supported, and where they feel welcome, valued, respected and included.
*Click here to learn more about this year's DiabetesSisters Weekend for Women conference, co-located with the Diabetes UnConference in October 2017.